One type of sentinel event that JCAHO tracks are retained foreign objects. Retained foreign objects are surgical items left in patients following surgery. Estimates indicated that surgical items are left in 1,500 people per year in the United States, including surgical sponges, surgical towels, and surgical instruments such as clamps and retractors. These items are most often left in the abdomen or pelvis (54% of the cases), the vagina (29%) and the thorax (7%). Mortality rates resulting from the unintended retention of foreign objects are as high as 11% to 35%. In virtually all cases, the patient is required to undergo a second (needless) operation to have the foreign object removed.
The JCAHO has issued strategies in an effort to prevent, or at least reduce, the occurrence of retained foreign object events. Hopefully, the implementation of these strategies, and dilgence by health care providers in the operating room, will
increase patient safety.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a retained foreign object, and you like to know more about your legal rights, the attorneys at Shevlin Smith would be happy to speak with you.